The designated time of India’s press conference was pushed back by more than 90 minutes. The real reason behind the suspense in delay of the conference came through a BCCI release which said that wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant was elevated to captaincy for the series against South Africa as appointed captain KL Rahul was out due to right groin injury.
As Pant made his way through to address his first press conference on the eve of his India captaincy debut at his home ground Arun Jaitley Stadium, the 24-year-old was happy on being made the captain and acknowledged the not-so-ideal situation the leadership duties came to him.
“It’s a very good feeling. Didn’t come under very good circumstances. At the same time, I am feeling happy. I would like to thank BCCI for giving me this opportunity to lead the Indian side. I will try to make most of it,” said Pant to reporters.
“But first of all, thank you to all my well wishers throughout my journey for supporting me through my thick and thins of my cricketing career. But I would like to make this as a base to keep improving and making my life better and better each and every day,” added Pant.
Pant first came to Delhi as a young boy from Roorkee, Uttarakhand, to pick up nuances of the game under the watchful eyes of his coach, Tarak Sinha. Come Thursday, he will take the field as captain of India’s T20I side in the city which he now calls his home.
“It’s a great feeling, especially getting an opportunity like this in your hometown. Nothing bigger opportunity than that and I will try to make most of it and give my hundred percent.”
Of course, Pant is no rookie when it comes to taking leadership duties in cricket. He has been captaining Delhi Capitals in the last two IPL seasons and before that, he had led Delhi in Ranji Trophy 2017/18, where the side became runners-up. Pant feels the prior experience of captaining Delhi in IPL and first-class cricket will help him in his upcoming sudden leadership assignment.
“I think as a captain, it will help me a lot (leading in the IPL) because when you keep on doing the same thing over a period of time, you tend to improve. I am someone who keeps learning from his mistakes over and over and it is something which will help me in the coming days also.”
With 2022 being a year where Australia will host the Men’s T20 World Cup in October-November, India’s resumption for the road to the mega event is now without its first choice top three batters. Pant remarked that changes will be taken in stride as the ultimate aim is lifting the silverware in the shortest format of the game.
“As a team, we have thought about certain goals we want to achieve as a team and are continuously working on them because at the end, we have the World Cup at the back of our heads and we are preparing for that. In the coming days, you will see there will be a lot of changes and the way we play cricket I guess.”
Pant’s elevation to captaincy means he would be working closely with Rahul Dravid in tactical and strategic planning. Dravid, who had handled the captaincy mantle in his playing days, has been someone who has been a constant presence in Pant’s career, from U19 to the senior team via IPL and India ‘A’.
“It’s one of the best things I would say because I have worked with him in U19 India days, then in India team and in IPL also. There’s a lot of experience with him and he’s already a legendary cricketer. I don’t have to introduce him to anyone. There’s a lot of learning from him Iike discipline, how to conduct myself on and off the field, learning game tactics, there’s lot to learn from him.”
Delhi is also the place where MS Dhoni was handed Test captaincy baton in 2008 after Anil Kumble’s retirement, also the year when Pant first came to the national capital as a boy with a desire to grasp cricketing knowledge. 12 years later, Pant, 24, has now been handed the captaincy albeit in T20Is.
“I haven’t digested this much yet. I was informed about captaining the team an hour ago. But I am happy that Mahi bhai got his (Test) captaincy here. But at the same time, not thinking too much and just trying to make most out of my opportunities.”
After the conference ended, Pant was quick to join the team for a range hitting session on the side wicket in the stadium. Some shots oozed elegance while some didn’t go the distance. But, if one goes by his words, expect Pant to take everything in his stride and make the most out of the chances he gets as a batter and an unexpected leader.